Supported Decision-making and Guardianship Comparison

Fact Sheet
Updated: 7 months ago
Public PolicySelf-determination and Guardianship

This table helps explain the differences between supported decision-making and guardianship.

Supported Decision-Making Guardianship
Lets an adult make their own decisions. Supporters help the individual gather and evaluate information needed to make decisions but do not make decisions for them. A guardian makes decisions on behalf of the individual. (Utah Code Ann. 75-5-312(2))
Does not require court time, and a person needing support may enter into or revoke a supported decision-making agreement at any time. (Proposed legislation, UCA 75-5-604(1), 606(1)) Created through a court process, and can only be removed by going back through the courts. (UCA 75-5-303 and 75-5-307)
An individual receives only the support or help they want. (Proposed legislation, 75-5-602(3)) Guardians provide for food, housing, and basic needs of the individual, including education and training where appropriate. (UCA 75-5-312(2))
Different Types

Supported decision making can be formal or informal.  Individuals can have one supporter or multiple. Most of us use it every day when we ask friends or family for advice or help when making big decisions.

May be a full or limited guardianship

Full: Judge gives legal right to the guardian to make almost all choices and decisions for the individual.

Limited: Guardian can only make decisions about what the court tells them they can. (UCA 75-5-304(2))

Limited guardianships are preferred, unless no other alternative exists. A court should only grant a full guardianship if no other alternative exists. (UCA 75-5-304(2))

There is a proposed bill that would give supported decision-making agreements legal status. (Proposed legislation, UCA 75-5-604)

Having a written agreement may make it easier for teachers, lawyers, doctors, and banks to recognize the process for those who use it.

Rarely needed for a parent or other interested party to continue to play a role in the life of an adult with a disability, and does not have to be granted when the individual turns 18.
Supporters can:

  • Be with the individual when making decisions and help them communicate them, if necessary;
  • Access information on behalf of the individual;
  • Participate in discussions with others when the individual is making decisions. (Proposed legislation, UCA 75-5-602(2))
Guardians should encourage the individual to participate in decisions and develop or regain the capacity to manage personal affairs if possible, and guardians should consider the individual’s desires and values in decision-making and use the least restrictive alternative possible. (UCA 75-5-312(7))
Possible roles of a supporter:

  • Help the individual understand information, options, responsibilities, and consequences of decisions;
  • Help the individual access information relevant to a life decision;
  • Assist the individual with making appointments and receiving supportive services;
  • Help the individual monitor their affairs or supportive services;
  • Assist the individual with making appointments and receiving supportive services. (Proposed legislation, UCA 75-5-605(2))


Individuals with a guardian still have the right to

  • Be represented by counsel;
  • Ask questions and express concerns;
  • Participate in developing an individualized plan for their care;
  • Have their stated desires considered;
  • Remain as independent as possible;
  • Exercise control over all other aspects of their life not included in the guardianship. (UCA 75-5-301.5)

For more information, see our fact sheets on guardianship, the rights of those with guardians, and alternatives to guardianship.